With the Premier League proving to be something of a challenge for Arsenal, Thursday’s Europa League clash can be something of a distraction for the outfit.
No win in five in the League as well as no goals from open play, times have been tough for under-fire manager Mikel Arteta. However, Europe’s second-tier competition has provided the club with an opportunity to get away from their league form and the Gunners have been sensational.
In their last game at home to Molde, the squad turned on the style as they taught their Norwegian counterparts a footballing lesson, thrashing them 4-1. Overall, the Gunners have dominated their group this season, winning all three of their fixtures, whilst scoring nine goals in the process. It has allowed Arteta to give opportunities to the likes of Nicolas Pepe, Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock, who have found league starts hard to come by, and in all fairness, the trio among other unfavoured stars have impressed.
Will Arsenal finish in the top four?
However, one thing that the former Manchester City coach can’t allow to happen is letting the competition be a distraction away from the top-flight all season long. You see it happen to some teams, they perform so well in one competition that all others become irrelevant.
Wigan Athletic are the prime example of this. Going on a sensational run in the FA Cup in 2013 as they beat Manchester City in the final, only to then get relegated in the Premier League.
The north London outfit don’t have the luxury of focusing on one route back into the Champions League with both providing stiff competitions. Sitting in the Europa League are some tough teams, including Tottenham Hotspur, Bayer Leverkusen and Leicester City, all who have the firepower to better the Gunners.
In the Premier League, anyone from Arsenal upwards has a realistic chance of finishing in the top four and with the Reds showing immense inconsistency thus far, you would probably bet against them claiming a spot.
How do you balance two extremely competitive competitions? Well, thank god I’m not in Arteta’s shoes because boy, is it going to be a tough old season for his side. He has to find a way of making it into Europe’s Premier competition without sacrificing one path for the other or he might end up missing out through both.